The Many Scales of Pride

Photo courtesy of BigStock/olga_sova
Photo courtesy of BigStock/olga_sova

Ecology is frequently thought of in terms of scales, the biggest scale being at the Earth-level and the smallest scale being at the individual-level. In between are regions, landscapes, ecosystems, communities, and populations. Through each lens of scale, different interactions, struggles, and cycles of change come to light. The bigger the scale, the more complicated things become; interactions become nuanced, mysterious, and infinite.

Similarly, I think pride in LGBTQIA+ identity and allyship can be viewed through the lens of scales. On an individual level, we celebrate our queer identities as they intersect with all the other identities in our life. Pride for a Black queer person in Minneapolis will not look the same as pride for white queer person in rural Minnesota. Individual struggles lead to individual beauty, a nuance which is frequently lost when pride is scaled up. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for it allows for broader community affiliation, organization, and action. However, the community cannot just fold in, it also must expand out and make fertile ground for new narratives to grow. Pride month is perhaps the perfect time to reflect on what beauties are given the opportunity to thrive in our community, what beauties are withering in our community, and what beauties may not be as beautiful as once thought.

As a white queer, transmasc/non-binary person with priviledge in many ways, I know that my eyes must put in the work to see the beauty and the struggle of other queer identities. My arms must put in the work to hold back branches that shield sunlight from undergrowth. My feet must be rooted enough to hear the diverse queer voices speaking their needs and truths. This all requires reflecting on what pride looks like for me on an individual level, for knowing what I celebrate within my own queerness also affects what can be celebrated in the larger community.

For me, pride used to look like celebrating the fact I could finally live and “pass” as a man in this world. It meant celebrating that I had a family that supported my transition, that I could find partners who loved and desired me as trans, and that my mental health was good enough to get through college. Looking back, what I was celebrating was my ability to blend in and achieve American fantasies of success. As if my gender was a performance for an audience I perceived as only capable of binary thinking.

As I got older, I realized that people are good at their core, are capable of seeing nuance, are able to sit with discomfort, and are able to grow in any stage of life. I also realized that the transness and queerness I was celebrating was wholly based on my ability to perform gender well. I was unapologetically a transman, but I was not unapologetically myself. 

Thus, pride has come to mean a celebration of self that goes deeper than gender performance and sexuality. In fact, on an individual level, pride is much more of a question. What exactly am I proud of? Am I celebrating my ability to be masculine in this world? If so, does that also mean I am celebrating patriarchal ideals of what masculinity is? Can masculinity ever be separated from the patriarchy? I don’t think I can ever separate my transition of gender performance with the fact I have also had a transition of power.

What I can celebrate is finding empowerment in expression and performance of self that balances my desires with collective good. I celebrate the shedding of shame and expectation in exchange for truth and curiosity. I celebrate partners, friends, and mentors who encourage me to go deeper than my transness and queerness can go, for those identities are also tethered to systems of oppression. I celebrate finding out what it means to be human and how we can connect with each other through our roots rather than shared beliefs. I celebrate being able to witness youth change this world. I celebrate elders who have already changed this world. I celebrate my own feeling of being able to make a small impact on this world.

Pride is a time for many things – grief, celebration, reflection, growth, relational deepening, healing – all of which have narratives and stories that come from an individual level. Our community has the duty and honor of gathering and integrating all of these nuanced stories into a larger, ever-changing story that does not shy away from the truth of what we are hearing. Pride comes from an unabashed need to be our selves, and our selves are always changing.

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